The prolonged coronavirus pandemic has affected all spheres of life. Besides causing illness, deaths, panic and fear, it has inflicted serious economic harm on nearly all countries of the world. Among the worst affected is the tourism sector as tourism is basically a social activity. Shutdowns and curbs to prevent Covid-19 from spreading have kept people away from tourist spots. Like other parts of the world and Pakistan, the Punjab Tourism Department has seen a drastic fall in its revenue in the past one year. It has suffered a loss of Rs36 million during this period. However, this is rough estimate and the real shortfall might be bigger.
Ever since the pandemic necessitated imposition of off-and-on lockdowns and other restrictions on the movement of people, the majority of tourist sites in the province have remained mostly closed, plummeting income from entry fees and losses caused by the closure of related activities. All this has placed the provincial tourism department in a dire financial situation so much so that the department and the administrations of tourist spots like historical sites, zoos and recreational places are now finding it difficult to pay the salaries of their staffers. The historic Lahore Fort and other such sites, Lahore Zoo and zoological and botanical gardens in other parts of the province and recreational spots in and near Murree have all seen a sharp drop in the number of visitors and consequently in their incomes. The Lahore Zoo earned an income of Rs190 million in 2019, and during the ongoing pandemic it has reduced to Rs101 million.
Now things look better with the gradual improvement in the pandemic situation. The tourism sector is slowly returning to normalcy. Return to the pre-Covid-19 level will, however, take some time, and the effects are likely to be felt for a few years. The UN estimates that globally the tourism sector has suffered a loss of $320 billion so far due to the pandemic.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2021.